Captain moonlight's notebook

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Rants from a conventional worrier in the battle of the sexes

CYNTHIA HEIMEL, who writes occasionally for this newspaper from Los Angeles, is in London to promote her new book Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Good-bye], a collection of recent journalistic writings, or, as she calls them herself, 'feminist rants'. The title terrified me almost as much as that of her previous book, If You Can't Live Without Me Why Aren't You Dead Yet, and I expected at the very least to be tongue-tied.

Imagine my surprise, then, to meet an earth mother from the Seventies in a baggy dress which she said she last wore when she left Britain to return to the United States after working as a social worker in Deptford, south-east London. She had 'conventional' written all over her. She took me in hand as soon as she saw I was having trouble with my tape recorder. She worried that her son, now 23, didn't have a job, that people would think she had brought him up badly; she worried whether her clothes were right, whether her spectacles suited her face. And she kept sending herself up, playing the clown, telling me about her hang- ups, joking about what turns out to have been a pretty tough life. She was fun, as clever as her writing, and good company.

She was born in Philadelphia's suburbs. She did not get on with her parents, especially her mother whom she described as a 'martyr-mother'. What's that? I asked. 'Oh you're so lucky,' she replied. 'A martyr-mother is: if you get bad report cards from school she gets very very ill and goes to bed.' She left home at 16, was given no encouragement to seek a career or think. Her destiny was to be another housewife. There you have the seeds of her revolt: instant marriage, instant motherhood and instant separation; the move to London; being politicised by Germaine Greer and co; the return to New York and poverty; work as a secretary, the beginning of her career as a writer, on the Soho Weekly News.

'In five years I clawed my way to the top from dollars 50 a week to dollars 300 a week. I was the princess writer there. I was very obnoxious, very cocky and arrogant.' Then Village Voice; Hollywood beckons; scriptwriting for television sitcoms; syndicated magazine columns; books; fame.

Her greatest passion now seems to be an overwhelming hatred of LA and the American television industry. She wants to leave California but doesn't know where to go. A friend has offered her a cottage in Oxfordshire, but she worries that it might be at the end of the runway of Brize Norton air base and she would have all those atom bombs to contend with. It's a problem. But we could do with a voice like hers over here. I hope she takes the cottage.

The hot news from Heaven

SINNERS will be pleased to know that Heaven is hotter than Hell by some 82 degrees centigrade, so I would advise the Righteous to make sure they take some suntan oil with them at least. Fire protection suits, though, would be an advantage in both places.

The Bible is the source for the temperature in Heaven as revealed by a computer hacker who also happens to be this newspaper's religious affairs correspondent. For all I know he may have dialled into that big computer in the sky. I cannot, however, vouch for the veracity of the report. The computation, which he found on an international network, is incomprehensible.

Here are the clues. For Heaven turn to Isaiah 30:26: 'The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days.' From this, I was informed, you can calculate heavenly radiation compared with the earthly stuff. Using what is called the Stefan- Boltzmann law you can convert radiation to temperature, putting Heaven at an unexpectedly warm 525C.

The calculations for Hell are less certain: Revelations 21:8 gives a hint by describing it as a lake of fire and brimstone. Hellfire must therefore be less than 444.6C - the temperature at which brimstone vaporises - or there would be no lake. Hence, Heaven's 525C to Hell's 443C. QED.

I suspect, however, the Devil might have tapped in somewhere along the line and tampered with the data to boost his cause.

TO THE Conway Hall, that meeting place for radicals in Red Lion Square in central London, on Thursday evening for the 80th birthday party of the New Statesman. In view of its rather dodgy prospects I was not surprised that after two free drinks I had to dip into my pocket. There was a large crowd, including the usual gaggle of Labour and Lib-Dem MPs. Peter Bottomley, spouse of the Secretary of State for Health, was the only Tory I identified.

Steve Platt, the editor, said he expected the party to pay for itself. He had even better news. Less than two months after the New Statesman launched its defence fund, it has collected some pounds 75,000 to fight John Major's libel action. It needs pounds 200,000 to cover settlements made out of court by its distributors and to pay its legal costs. Mr Platt advised me there was a remote chance that the case of the Prime Minister, his cook and the magazine would be heard before the summer recess but it was more likely to appear in the autumn lists.

Sinners will be pleased to know that heaven is apparently hotter than hell by some 82 degrees centigrade, so I would advise the Righteous to make sure they take some sun tan oil with them at least. Fire protection suits though would be an advantage for both.

The Bible is the source for the temperature in heaven as revealed by a computer hacker who also happens to be this newspaper's religious affairs correspondent. For all I know he may have dialled into that big computer in the sky. I cannot, however, vouch for the veracity of the report. The computation, which he found on an international network, is pseudo-scientific and incomprehensible.

Here are the coordinates: For heaven turn to Isaiah 30:26 'the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days.'. From this, I was informed, you can calculate heavenly radiation compared to the earthly one. Using a measurement called Stefan- Boltzmann Fourth Power Law you can convert radiation to temperature, putting heaven at a unexpectedly warm 525c.

The coordinates for hell are less certain: Revelations 21:8 gives a hint by describing it as a lake of fire and brimstone. Hellfire, said the computation, must be less than 444.6 degrees centigrade - the temperature at which brimstone changes from being a liquid into vapour - or there would be no lake. Perfectly reasonable. Hence, Heaven's 525c to Hell's 443c. QED.

I suspect, however, the devil might have tapped in somewhere along the line and changed the coorinates to boost his cause.

Say what you

like about . . .

. . . May Day but:

It annoys Margaret Thatcher

Not in North Korea

Not over the shipping frequencies

It keeps Morris dancers hey nonny no-ing

It's good for the garden (it always rains)

It's, oh, days since the last bank holiday

Weary Dave Spart returns to his roots

LORD GNOME, otherwise known as the chairman, otherwise known as Peter Cook, was growing a moustache, reluctantly, for television. He said the BBC had refused to give him a false one because of financial cuts. The stubble under his nose looked uncomfortable. Mr Cook is surprisingly large, about the size of a pantomime dame.

'Emmanuel Strobes', Lord Gnome's accountant and fixer, was floating around with details of the balance sheet, and keeping an eye on the booze. He is very short. Ian Hislop, the editor, and as small as Mr Strobes, was cracking jokes, dancing around the room like a jester.

Richard Ingrams, former editor, was slumped in an armchair and waving his walking stick at people. Auberon Waugh told me at the Academy Club later that evening that Mr Ingrams needed a stick because he could no longer cope with all that *******. In a chair beside Mr Ingrams was Dave Spart, otherwise known as Paul Foot, the man returning to the fold.

Norman Balon, the guvnor of the Coach and Horses, was fussing over the food. Last time Dave Spart lunched here, he said, he complained that there was no smoked salmon. 'More salmon for Mr Foot,' called Mr Ingrams. 'Champagne Spart', chirped Mr Hislop. Lord Gnome, his employees and guests, had come together to celebrate the return of Mr Foot, the socialists' friend, to Private Eye. He resigned from the Daily Mirror in March after the editor refused to publish his weekly column, in which he criticised the paper's new management.

We met in the room above the Coach and Horses, Mr Balon's pub in Greek Street, Soho, where Private Eye holds its fortnightly lunches. You go behind the bar to climb the stairs, a narrow shaft difficult enough to climb for a man such as myself with firm legs.

There was no sign at the bar of that other walking-stick man, Jeffrey Bernard, the Soho chronicler who drinks his vodka in the Coach and Horses and who recently lost his young female friend from the Groucho club to Mr Ingrams. It was this which prompted Mr Waugh's remarks.

Mr Foot parted company with Private Eye in 1979 over a disagreement with Mr Ingrams. At that time cartoonist John Kent produced a drawing, 'Dropping the revolutionary', in the manner of Bismarck being cast aside by the Kaiser. It shows Mr Foot leaving the Private Eye pulpit to an extremely happy group of founders: Mr Ingrams, Barry Fantoni and Christopher Booker. He had joined in 1967 and created Footnotes, the investigative section of the magazine that frequently set the running for Fleet Street.

Mr Foot said he had received offers from television and newspapers, including one from my sister organ, the Independent, after leaving the Mirror. He told me he decided to re-join Private Eye, despite taking a substantial pay cut, because he wanted to escape the tyranny of proprietors. 'I am wary of proprietors,' he said. 'And you can spell it either w-e-a-r-y or w-a-r-y' But what of Lord Gnome? I asked. 'I am 100 per cent certain I can trust Lord Gnome,' Mr Foot said.

'Hear, hear,' said Mr Hislop.

'There's some cheese here if you've had enough salmon,' said Mr Balon, butting in.

It was a very pleasant lunch. Mr Balon's food, I was told, had greatly improved, or was it just for Dave Spart's return? I was the last to leave, following Mr Foot and Mr Ingrams, two oldies arm-in-arm, down the stairs into the sunshine on Greek Street.

A DISTRAUGHT letter reaches this office from Mrs B M Martin of Skegness asking my colleague Cal McCrystal how the film Reservoir Dogs ends. Mrs Martin said she went to see it with her husband who forced her to leave half-way through because he was disgusted by the violence. She asks Mr McCrystal because he had recently written an article on screen violence which referred to Reservoir Dogs: 'As you saw the whole film would you please tell me how it ended, no matter how violent,' Mrs Martin writes. Mr McCrystal, unfortunately, cannot. The endings of all the films he saw that week have merged in his memory into one unmemorable splodge. If any reader can help I shall pass on the missing pieces to Skegness.

(Photograph omitted)

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